MONTREAL — The 2014 Combined Jewish Appeal (CJA) is expected to collect more than $45.2 million, general chair Stephen Bronfman announced at the campaign’s official closing Nov. 25, the highest amount in recent years.
“Montreal is back on the map,” a jubilant Bronfman proclaimed to the 500 cheering campaign volunteers gathered at Griffintown’s trendy Arsenal art gallery to celebrate.
The 2013 campaign, by comparison, ultimately realized $39.4 million, according to the Federation CJA website.
Of this year’s projected total, more than $36.3 million was raised through the regular campaign (compared to $35.7 million last year), about $7.3 million came in the form of one-time gifts, either designated or not, and $1.6 million was contributed to the emergency fund for Israel created last summer in response to Operation Protective Edge.
More than 1,700 new donations were received, expanding a donor base of about 16,000. A matching program of up to $2 million set up by Bronfman and others was an incentive to new or long-lapsed donors.
Bronfman described the achievement not only in financial terms, but as an expression of the Montreal Jewish community’s collective will.
“We are in a position to acknowledge our Jewishness, and do so loudly and proudly,” he said.
His six months at the campaign’s helm, which included leading a 600-person “Mega Mission” to Israel last May, “has taught me a great lesson in humility, compassion and pride that I will take forward for the rest of my life.”
He attributed much of his motivation to make this a memorable campaign to one of his four children. “At the major gifts event Claudine and I hosted in September, my eldest daughter Alexandra spoke. She said, ‘Now, papa, go out and raise some money,’ and that’s what we did.”
He also gave credit to his volunteer campaign team and campaign director Natou Suissa, to whom he presented a bouquet of red roses.
The achievement was applauded by Stephen’s father, Charles Bronfman, in a video message.
“This indicates that the Montreal Jewish community is back big time,” the elder Bronfman said. “We are kvelling in Palm Beach.”
No sooner had this campaign come to a formal close than Bronfman’s successor as general chair, Barry Pascal, started rallying the troops.
“As the child of a child survivor of the Holocaust, I can only say in Montreal when called upon, it is not an obligation, but a great privilege… It’s our destiny, and together we will fulfill our destiny.”
If this was the one of the best campaigns, the party had to be the most eye-popping, rocking one ever. The cavernous Arsenal, a former shipyard dating back to the mid-19th century, is today a contemporary art gallery and performance space.
“We wanted to mix it up,” said Bronfman, “make things more action-packed. We want people to bust out and have a great time.”
The vast darkened room was decorated like a glamorous nightclub, with very high production values enhancing the ambience. A DJ played music while guests enjoyed having themselves videotaped whooping it up, images that were later shown in slow motion on two giant screens.
Confetti exploded over the whole room when the campaign results were revealed.
After the brief speeches, there was a performance by the Montreal Rhapsody Orchestra, and the dancing began.
The cost of campaign events is defrayed by corporate sponsorships, which this year totalled $1.2 million. This allows overhead to be kept to approximately 9.7 per cent of funds raised.
As this was an art gallery, CJA mounted its own exhibition to visually communicate where campaign proceeds go. These specially created art installations of life-sized objects highlighted various social services that benefit.
Among the pieces was a canoe atop blue cellophane water to indicate the 1,000 needy children who attend Jewish summer camp; an old-fashioned blackboard and desk, indicating the 4,000 students whose Jewish day school tuition is subsidized; and a collage of filled paper bags atop a hopscotch board, conveying the 7,000 lunches provided each month to schoolchildren.
The message of the evening was one of appreciation to the 800 campaign canvassers and other volunteers, as well as donors. Each table had a thank-you card signed by Bronfman, and everyone left with a bottle of Israeli wine.